Is one cannabis strain more effective than another when it comes to treating conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)?
A team of scientists in British Columbia is striving to find out once and for all.
Researchers from the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus have launched one of the first studies to compare how different strains affect PTSD sufferers.
Patients with PTSD from any number of incidents are included in the study – from armed-forces veterans to sexual assault victims, first responders, and victims of motor-vehicle accidents.
“It’s the patients leading the way on this, and they’re using cannabis, so it’s our job as health scientists to figure out if it’s working,” lead researcher Zach Walsh told The Georgia Straight.
Walsh said the research is essential as PTSD patients are often prescribed a cocktail of pharmaceutical drugs that can include antidepressants, sleeping pills, and even antipsychotics. Moreover, Health Canada has only approved one antidepressant drug for PTSD, Paroxetine, and some studies have linked it with have increased thoughts of suicide.
“The nice thing about cannabis, in comparison, is that the side effects line up much more favourably,” Walsh says. “Some might have a tough time with the cognitive effects caused by the high, but for most people, that’s a much more tolerable side effect compared to those of other treatment options.”
It’s Walsh’s hope that throughout the trial, PTSD-afflicted participants will have symptoms like irritability, anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, and traumatic flashbacks reduced.
Every participant in the triple-blind study was given a vaporizer and is taking two of three treatments over three weeks each. The first treatment is a placebo, the second is a 12 percent THC-dominant strain and the third contains 12 percent of each THC and CBD.
While Dr. Ian Mitchell – an emergency physician responsible for the medical safety of study participants – says it’s too early to tell what the results of this new research will be, anecdotal evidence from PTSD patients in his clinical practice has shown cannabis to be beneficial.
“I have a lot of patients who are enthusiastic to be using it,” Mitchell told The George Straight.
“I’m seeing a lot of RCMP veterans in my practice with PTSD who are able to sleep again—but you get a double effect, because it also helps with pain.”
The study is expected to be complete by spring 2018.